Definition of Aerosol

What Is Aerosol?

Aerosol is the gaseous suspension of either solid or liquid particles that range in size from nanometers to micrometers and have major impacts on the earth’s climate and human health. Ninety percent of aerosols occur naturally, mainly from volcanic eruptions and forest fires; the remainder ten percent of aerosols are man-made.[1] Man-made aerosol products include paints, insecticides, personal care products, detergents, and automobile chemicals. These products are typically packaged in pressurized cans and use gaseous propellants to release the substance as an aerosol. Other man made aerosols come from fossil fuel production when sulfur dioxide reacts with other gases which in turn creates sulfate aerosols.

The implications of aerosols on our environment and health are significant. They impact the environment by causing impacts on the earth’s climate and can disrupt weather patterns. Human health is also compromised as these particles are easily inhaled. Once released into the atmosphere aerosols are easily distributed in urban and industrial areas and can be found in air, ocean and ice. It should be noted that aerosol spray cans use to contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and were thus very bad for the ozone layer. Now most aerosol sprays do not include CFCs, however they still have negative effects on the environment and human health.

Aerosol sprays are typically made from steel and aluminum and with proper care and disposal, aerosol containers can easily be recycled with other metals.


1. Aerosols: Tiny Particles, Big Impact. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from NASA Earth Observatory:

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